Soft-tops: Not for the soft-hearted?

What sums up the ideal summer better than the clink of ice cubes on glass, the smack of a cricket ball on willow, the scent of newly mown grass, and getting to press the ‘open’ button on the roof of your soft-top car?

Soft-top cars are all the rage these days. They are very reliable, look fantastic inside and out, and what’s more, they are fun and easy to drive. Plus, they have come a long way in terms of style, attractiveness, and technology too. Yes, you can now get your hands on machines that allow you to raise or lower the roof even when you are doing around 30 miles per hour. And what’s really sleek? Most now take less than 20 seconds for the roof to open – for example, the stunning new Vauxhall Cascada takes just 17 seconds – a big change from days when you had to steer your car to the side of the road to get the roof down.

Here is a rundown of the pros and cons of owning a topless car to help you decide whether or not purchasing a soft-top car is right for you.

Pros

1. They’re full of fun and character

There are few better joys than going for a spin on sunny days with the roof down. If you fancy the wind in your hair, being able to drive with full awareness of the surroundings, (and don’t mind losing some volume on your music as you belt along down the motorways), it is an awesome thing to own. Top up, you’re well protected from the elements and the outside world. Top down, you are open to smells, sounds, sights and other sensations unknown to sealed motorists.

If you’re a little timid and have never driven a soft top, do yourself a favour and hire one for the weekend. What about the gorgeous Jaguar F-TYPE, which was Top Gear’s ‘Convertible of the Year’? You will find out what millions of soft-top owners have known for years – nothing comes close to the glamour of an open-air experience.

2. They’re feature-intensive cars

Soft-tops feature a host of luxury options, even in the non-luxury types. You can expect to get safety aids and a lot of remarkable features including the one-touch button that springs into action when it’s raining and you’re looking to duck for cover, climate control, heated seats, automatic wipers, blowers to waft warm air around your neck, keyless ignition, and more.

3. They suit the UK weather and roads (honest!)

Despite our sometimes fickle weather, the UK is actually great for top-down motoring. It very rarely gets too hot to need air con, and even though it occasionally pours down, you’ve got a quick-raising roof, and there are many temperate dry spells in between. We also have the spectacular roads for a memorable convertible ride. Miles of twisty country lanes and meandering roads are begging to be experienced in the comfort of a soft top. For those who are vain about their chic elegance, these cars can make a good style statement on the roads in downtown cities as well.

4. They give you plenty of headroom

How many times has it happened to you: you are driving around, when you see the authentic, genuine 15 foot totem pole for your backyard, and it is only a few pounds! Or perhaps, more seriously, you struggle to give your tall friends a comfortable lift on a day trip. With the top down, soft-tops can take pretty much anyone and anything tall – more practical than you might have realised!

Cons

1. They’re costly

Most soft tops are luxury models or sports cars and usually cost a lot of money to buy and therefore to repair than other kinds of motors. This explains the high insurance costs associated with them. Even though the cost of a policy cover has stooped to new lows in recent years, you will generally pay a lot more money for a soft top than for a hard top edition of the same car.

2. They have safety concerns

Soft tops tend to be a soft target for burglars. All it takes is one forceful slice through the ragtop with a sharp knife and your car can be broken into. According to claims data from a leading insurance company, convertibles, especially soft tops, are more likely to be vandalised than the rest. Research among soft-top owners also showed that nearly 25% of them have experienced theft from a car they have owned, with nasty damage to the body of the auto as well as keying being reported as the most common acts of vandalism.

So you should consider how you park: you may feel hiring a garage or gated parking spot is safest at night, or use a private driveway if you have access, rather than using on-street parking. You may also want to install additional security measures such as an insurer-approved alarm – and as a bonus, all these measures will also help lower your insurance premiums.

3. They may not be the best ride

They may not give you the best cruising experience if you are a purist. Buying a soft-top means compromising on a quiet interior, and often heavier handling as well, because the cars have to be extra strong in the body to make up for the lack of roof rigidity. But both these gripes are less of an issue on the latest soft-top models – such as the Citroen DS3 Cabrio convertible, which really offers a full-length fabric sunroof, meaning you get less wind noise when it is up and less buffeting when it is down, and you don’t compromise on boot space. Or see also the new version of the iconic Mazda MX-5, which was built to be a classic two-seater roadster and gives a true joy of a drive – fully deserving its new accolade, from Auto Express’ New Car Awards, of Roadster of the Year.

Now that you know the basic pros and cons, it is over to you to make a decision whether or not you prefer the excitement and glamour of a soft-top or the security and safety of an ordinary car. The main cons to owning a soft top are easily mitigated through some planning and vigilance – but they’re not for the soft-hearted, so think ahead!